MEMPHIS, Tenn. Brendon Todd’s putter is more than making up for any lack of power on the tee at the World Golf Championship.
Todd shot a 5-under 65 on Friday and took a two-stroke lead through 36 holes of the FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
“I haven’t hit the ball that sharp for the first two days and maybe some other tournaments this year, but I’ve probably put down the best of each tournament this year,” said Todd. “I’m really excited about how I played and I’m looking forward to the opportunity this weekend.”
Todd followed defending champion Brooks Koepka after the first round with two strokes. He quickly made up for that deficit and took the lead with a bogey-free, five-birdie round for a total of 129 at the World Golf Championships event at TPC Southwind.
Rickie Fowler closed with birdies on his last two holes for a total of 67 and 131 just behind Todd thanks to his own putter.
“I feel like I’m going in the right direction,” said Fowler. “I think that my main goal has been to go through some changes for the better. Sometimes you have to take that step back to take two steps forward. I feel like we’ve already taken a step back. I feel that we have taken a step forward. I’m looking for that next step. ‘
Koepka was leading himself on 10 below before falling apart on his back nine with a double bogey and two bogeys. He finished with a 71, his first time over par in this course in seven rounds. He was four strokes back, tied with Byeong Hun An (65) and Chez Reavie (67).
But Koepka said he wasn’t concerned about the remaining 36 holes.
“I just did badly,” said Koepka. “It wasn’t really anything other than that. Felt stress-free except for missing a few short ones. On the back nine they were fine, they were just missing and in the front they just weren’t good putts. ‘
Jon Rahm shot a 74 and is now 4 over in his first event as the world’s No. 1.
Justin Thomas, who went back to No. 1 in the world with a win, was seven strokes back after a 70. Rory McIlroy’s bid to become No. 1 again may have to wait until the PGA Championship next week. He shot a 66, but is 10 strokes back.
This round started early Friday morning to avoid expected afternoon thunderstorms.
Todd won back-to-back tournaments last November for his first tour win since winning the Byron Nelson in 2014. Since returning in June, Todd missed two cuts and finished 11th in the Travelers Championship.
On Friday, his putter worked well enough that he only needed 24 putts in a round with a 50-foot birdie on par-3 No. 14. Todd hit a 6-iron on the left of the green, and he had to roll ball over a mound that broke at least 5 feet to the left.
“My caddy really gave me a good place behind the hole to aim for, and I just focused on speed,” said Todd. “It just floated there in the middle of the hole. Bonus birdie there, but that’s what you need to do to win golf tournaments sometimes, and shoot low rounds like that. ”
Todd sank a 13-footer on the par-3 island green from number 11 to set 9, just as Koepka was the first to reach double digits under par.
Koepka double-bogeyed number 2 when he putted three after missing a 3-foot par putt. His putter cost him a birdie chance at par-5 No. 3.
That put Todd on top of the scoreboard with 9 under, and his putter helped him birdie consecutive holes, including the big put at number 14. He lowered a 12-footer at number 15 to undergo 11 and lead four strokes to Fowler’s birdie bird finish.
Fowler might have been part of the lead if not for hitting his tee shot in the water off the island green at number 11. He bounced back by hitting his distance 175 yards at number 17 to 3 feet for birdie, and he came in from just before the green at number 18.
“It was nice to see some putts come in,” Fowler said. “These vegetables are about as good as possible. It was nice to keep them a little on the soft side and make it very playable when riding the fairway. ‘
LPGA returns with Kang placing 66 in Inverness for the lead
TOLEDO, Ohio – Danielle Kang went without matches for more than six months and looked like she had never left, bogey-free at Inverness Club for a 6-under 66 and a one-time lead in the LPGA Drive On Championship.
The long-awaited return of the LPGA Tour after the COVID-19 pandemic immediately brought a sense of its new world. Kang had no idea where she was after a closing bird.
“There are no scoreboards on the golf course,” Kang said.
Inverness, where Paul Azinger defeated Greg Norman in a playoff at the 1993 PGA Championship, hosts the Solheim Cup next year and offered to host the first event back for the LPGA Tour since the Women’s Australian Open on February 16. The LPGA Tour will remain in northeastern Ohio next week before heading to Scotland.
Jodi Ewart Shadoff from England also played bogey-free for a 67. Celine Boutier from France and Lee-Anne Pace from South Africa were also under 5 until both made bogey in the last hole. They went for a 68.
The main worldwide golf tour attracted 130 players from some 30 countries, although it missed the leading stars of the powerhouse South Korea. Jin Young Ko, the number 1 player in the world, and Sung Hyun Park stayed at home and played on the Korean LPGA. Neither is expected to travel to Scotland for the Women’s British Open in three weeks.
The only Korean in the top 10 – a rarity given the country’s strength in women’s golf – was Hee Young Park at the age of 70.
A former PGA women’s champion, Kang paid special attention to the speed of the greens in Inverness, making six birdies and some key points to keep her around.
“Even if you make a good shot, it’s not an easy pit,” Kang said. “I have almost three putts from 9 feet. Definitely had a very good attitude and was very nice to be back. ”
The LPGA Tour does not allow spectators, although that was no problem for Kang. She was more concerned with her etiquette with two other players, other than a more casual attitude at home. Kang only played twice in the Florida events early in the year, including third place on January 23 at the Gainbridge LPGA in Boca Rio.
The field attracted four of the top 10 in the world rankings, and Kang (No. 4) Minjee Lee from Australia (No. 8) were the only ones to break par. Lee shot 69.
Nelly Korda, the highest ranked player at number 2 in the world, opened with two birdies in three holes and closed with another birdie. It was the part in between that cost her, and she had a 76. Lexi Thompson, who dropped to number 9, opened with a 73.
For most, it was just good to be back.
Lydia Ko made a long bird to finish her lap of 69 and joined Lee and Amy Olson.
“I saw some of the girls and I was like ‘Man, it’s nice not to see you through a virtual app or on social media,'” said Ko.
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